How to make hummus

Preparation
Get a big food processor. A stick blender will work, but a big sturdy strong food processor that can work uninterrupted for a few minutes is better.
A cup of chickpeas
A cup of chickpeas

Get small chickpeas. (Big ones work, too, but the smaller they are, the softer they get, and it’s important.)
Wash with flowing water, and remove bad ones (black, stale, etc.)

Chickpeas in water
Chickpeas in water

Put chickpeas in water for at least 24 hours. Keep them in a refrigerator. Change the water every six hours or so. I usually have them in the water for two or three days. They will increase twice or more in size during this time, so use a large receptacle.

Peeling

Optionally, you may peel your chickpeas. It may make the final paste slightly smoother, but it’s very time-consuming.

Peeled vs unpeeled chickpeas
Peeled vs unpeeled chickpeas

Boiling
Boil the chickpeas in a pot on a small stove until they are soft. “Soft” means that you can crush them with your fingers or teeth as easily as a boiled green pea. This may take a few hours, depending on weather, water quality, type of pot, fire intensity, and of course the chickpeas themselves. Usually it takes me somewhere between two and four hours. I begin in the morning and it’s ready by lunch time. (Arabs frequently do it overnight and have it as breakfast.)

I’ve been told that using a pressure cooker can shorten the time a lot, but I never tried it. But covering the pot while boiling is certainly a good idea.
Mixing
For one cup of chickpeas you’ll need:
Salt, cumin, pepper, olive oil, tahini, lemon, garlic
Salt, cumin, pepper, olive oil, tahini, lemon, garlic
  • Half a cup or more of tahini. Try to get something produced in Israel or an Arab country – Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt. In Israel, Tahini from Nablus is very highly regarded. Uzbek or Turkish tahini may be OK, but I’m not sure. Get raw tahini: it should have nothing but sesame in the ingredients (and maybe oil, but even that is unnecessary). Don’t use “tahini salads”, “seasoned tahini”, or “tahini spreads” if they have anything except sesame.
  • Half a cup of olive oil.
  • Fresh cold water. Some people use the water in which the chickpeas were boiled, and it’s OK, but fresh cold water gives the final product brighter color. For the amount see below.
  • Squeezed lemon juice. Half a lemon may be enough, but it can go up to a whole lemon or even more if you like it.
  • A clove of garlic. Some people don’t use it – a matter of taste.
  • A pinch of cumin. Just a tiny little pinch – it gives enough taste. Too much of it won’t ruin the taste, but will darken the color.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste. Small pinches should be enough.
Put the garlic, the cumin and a couple of spoons of chickpeas (without water) in the food processor and grind for about a minute. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of tahini. Grind for a minute more. Check the consistency. It will still be far from the final product, but should start looking like a paste.
Let's start!!!
Let’s start!!!
Add a quarter of a cup of water and grind a bit more. From here on, keep adding chickpeas, tahini, water, salt and pepper. Be especially careful with water – too much of it will make the whole thing too liquid, so add it little by little until the consistency looks beautiful and tastes well. Adding a lot of tahini is usually a good thing, but also depends on your taste.

Adding tahini and pepper
Adding tahini and pepper

It may be a good idea not to grind all the chickpeas, but to keep some boiled ones and add them as a topping. In fact, many hummus restaurants serve plates of hummus with lots of non-ground chickpeas in the middle, but do make sure that they are very soft.

Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind!
Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind!
Serving
Most commonly, it’s spread on a plate and “wiped” with a pita, but knock yourself out and serve it any way that is tasty to you :)
Basic: with whole boiled chickpeas, parsley, olive oil, cumin and paprika
Basic: with whole boiled chickpeas, parsley, olive oil, cumin and paprika
Very often it is spread on the plate using a spoon in a few rounds so that most of it is close to the edges and the middle of the plate is mostly empty and filled with additions, such as:
  • Boiled soft chickpeas
  • Fried mushrooms
  • Fava beans
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Baked eggplant
The universal toppings are a bit of olive oil, black pepper, paprika and turmeric.
Another version - with fried mushrooms and the chickpeas mixed in
Another version – with fried mushrooms and the chickpeas mixed in
Variations
  • A lot of people suggest adding a spoon of baking soda while boiling. They say that it makes the chickpeas softer. I tried it a few times, and it doesn’t hurt, but not really necessary either.
  • It’s OK to cheat by buying a can of preserved whole chickpeas if they are sold in your area. They are already soft, so you only need to boil them for a few minutes. It saves you a lot of time and the taste is fine.

The first ten or so times that I tried to do it, it was very far from brilliant. It can take years to become good at it. Don’t let it discourage you :)

Uri Avnery and the Israeli Haredim

Uri Avnery is one of the main voices of the Israeli political left. Especially for people abroad – his English blog is frequently quoted in foreign blogs by people who are interested in Israel.

The opinions that Avnery expresses are strong and often unpleasant, but they are legitimate and they are usually have at least some basis in fact.

His latest column, Israeli Mustard, is about the ultra-orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim. It was quoted in Richard Stallman’s blog, for example. And it’s problematic. It’s mostly factual, but it has some imprecisions in details. They may seem unimportant, but they may be quoted and they may form people’s opinions, so I want to correct them. I don’t really care whether it’s intentional disinformation or neglect on Avnery’s side; I just want the corrections to be written down somewhere.

“Haredim […] are not part of the Israeli state. They don’t want to be.” – Well, not quite. It’s very open to interpretation, of course, but the situation goes more or less like this: There are Haredi leaders and ideologists, who express strong opposition to the existence of a Jewish Zionist state. What is important, however, is what people do and not what ideologists say.

For most purposes they are a part of the Israeli state and that’s how they want it. They mostly speak the same language (more on that later), they mostly vote in the same elections, they mostly have the same identity cards, they mostly ride the same buses. Despite the common rumors, many of them work in the same workplaces, although it’s true that many don’t work and instead spend all of their life in religious studies, earning much of their living from donations and from working Israelis’ taxes.

The Haredim are somewhat comparable in this regard to Jehovah’s Witnesses, although for many reasons they would, of course, hate the comparison. The Witnesses’ ideology is opposed to the modern idea of states, elections, conscription and so on, but in practice they are mostly integrated in the civil life of the states in which they live. From what I heard, the Witnesses don’t vote, and the Haredim actually do. And as far as I know, the Witnesses’ are not funded by taxpayers’ money, and the Haredim are.

“Actually, the Orthodox will never allow their children to join the army, because of the justified fear that they will be contaminated by ordinary Israelis” – again, not quite. Many Orthodox serve already. Patriotism is human, Haredim are human, serving in an army is an expression of patriotism – hence, some of them simply want to serve. Some do this not so much because of patriotism, but because they think that it is a good career move. Some do this with their parents’ agreement and some without. That’s fact. As for my opinion on the matter – well, my feeling is that their number is likely to grow, because it’s simply impossible for them to avoid this completely.

“The separation between the Orthodox and others – between Jews and Israelis, so to speak – is almost complete” – no. It exists, because at least some of them want it, or are pressured into it by their communal leadership. The separation is strongest in the education system: They definitely study in very different schools, and very few of them study in Israeli universities. But elsewhere the separation is weak: They often shop in different stores, but not exclusively. They often live in Haredim-only neighborhoods, but again, not exclusively. There is some separation in transportation, but despite the buzz that this topic generates, it’s actually quite small.

“The orthodox speak another language (Yiddish, meaning “Jewish”)” – no, and this is very important. Some Israeli Haredim speak Yiddish in some social contexts, but all of them know Hebrew. Not just the Hebrew of religious books, but the spoken Hebrew of the streets, the government, the newspapers and the shopping malls. They write with pretty much the same spelling inconsistencies that are characteristic to all Israelis. Of course, being a special and tightly-knit social group, they use some unique expression in their Hebrew, but you could say the same about computer programmers, too. For the most part, the Hebrew of Israeli Haredim is the same language as the Hebrew of the other Israelis. (I’m actually happy that Haredim keep Yiddish alive, but that’s a topic for a different post.)

The last paragraph of Avnery’s post made me particularly angry:

BY THE WAY: when an Israeli Jew is asked by a stranger anywhere in the world “what are you?” he always answers: “I am an Israeli”. He will never, ever, say: “I am a Jew”. Except the Orthodox

Well, this is not even wrong. “What are you”? What kind of a question is that? People don’t ask each other “what are you”, people ask “where are you from”. The answer to that is “Israel”, of course; both religious and secular Israelis say that. In the rare case that I’m asked what is my ethnicity, I say that I am a Jew, even though I’m not religious. So that’s definitely not a “never, ever” situation, as Avnery claims.

This is not to say that there is no discussion about the existence of an Israeli ethnic identity. It exists, and it’s old and passionate. Avnery just describes it very badly. I even agree that an Israeli ethnic identity exists, or, more precisely, co-exists with a Jewish ethnic identity. And despite their lifestyle and the claims of their leadership, the Haredim definitely belong to it. Israeli Haredim are Israeli, much like American Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are definitely American – whether they like it or not.

Bakeries

People in North America have some weird misunderstandings about food. In North America a “bakery” is a place that sells sweet pastry, that was not necessarily baked at the same place or on the same day.

In France a bakery is a place in which various types of bread and perhaps also sweet pastry are baked and sold as fresh as possible. It is the same way in Israel, although in France there are probably many more of them. (The good thing about Israeli bakeries is that you can usually be sure that there’s no animal fat in the bread.)

In France they hardly sell bread in the supermarket – only weird and desperate people would buy bread in a plastic bag in a supermarket when such wonderful fresh bread can be bought near one’s home.

We traveled in many places in North America and hoped to find a bakery that sells fresh bread, but all the “bakeries” just sell sweet stuff. We love sweet stuff, but not too much of it.

But hey, that’s probably on of the reasons why so many Americans dream about going to Europe.

Change

This is not a post about Obama.


Here is a little comparison based on my short visits to a few North American cities. The hobos in Vancouver introduce themselves to tourists, ask them where do they live, say that they have relatives in that country and then ask for change so that they could pay for gas, pizza or a stay in YMCA – that is, they do much the same thing as the hobos in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Rome, Moscow and many other touristic cities. They were also the most annoying, but except that the city is very charming.

The hobos in San Francisco are quite similar, except they hold lovely honest signs such as “Need weed” and “Why lie? I want a beer!”

The hobos in Seattle didn’t try to harass me. In fact they all looked very intelligent, even in their rags. They actually seemed to develop intelligent conversations with the passers by. I didn’t talk to any of them.

Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the hobos and the weirdos of all the above cities are nowhere near those in New York City. I visited Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan below Central Park; i’ve seen the most interesting guys around Washington square. What’s really curious, though, is that the New York guys are also the ones that bothered me the least – they are very weird, but they mind their own business.

Expansionists

A group of right-wing Zionists wanted to try to get Wikipedia to represent their opinions better, so they tried to organize a course about it. They didn’t exactly have an instructor, so a couple of prominent Hebrew Wikipedia editors volunteered to help them: To give them a lecture about Wikipedia and the way it assures political neutrality. I know both of them personally and i believe that they did their job honestly.

Apparently, this piece of news was so important, that it reached The Guardian (Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups). Richard Stallman mentioned it in his “Political Notes” blog, saying: “Israeli expansionists are planning courses on how to slip their views into Wikipedia without triggering resistance.”

It’s actually not completely incorrect to call them “expansionists”, although it reminds me too strongly of the Soviet press, which used the exact same term to describe Israel. But it’s quite ridiculous to say that anyone in his right mind can plan to slip his views into Wikipedia without triggering resistance. It’s 2010 outside, and even people with strong political opinions already know that Wikipedia is supposed to be neutral. It doesn’t necessarily succeed at it, but to slip in views without triggering resistance? That’s patent nonsense.

One of the expansionists was quoted in the Guardian: “We don’t want to change Wikipedia or turn it into a propaganda arm, we just want to show the other side”. What do you know, an expansionist Zionist land-grabbing settler said a sentence that makes sense!

But what’s most disappointing about this whole thing is that it is a complete non-issue. Because if it is a significant newsworthy issue, then so are the lectures about Wikipedia that i gave to the left-wing youth movement Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, to the Israeli Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center, to the Rehovot Perl Mongers group and to several groups of the Hebrew University students and staff. These were the same lectures: Free culture, spreading knowledge, editing history, citing sources, neutral point of view. We the Wikipedians who volunteer to lecture on the website we are so passionate about say the same things about Wikipedia to left-wing people, to right-wing people, to programmers, to students and to scientists.

But hey, i’m happy to have read that silly Guardian article, because it made me realize that Wikipedia won: It is perceived as a website that is difficult to trick. Well, it really is.

Shabtai, Linur and Keret

I opened the article Hebrew literature in the English Wikipedia. It says:

In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon won the Nobel Prize for Literature for novels and short stories that employ a unique blend of biblical, Talmudic and modern Hebrew.

Among other Israeli authors who were translated into other languages and attained international recognition are Ephraim Kishon, Yaakov Shabtai, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Irit Linur, Etgar Keret and Yehoshua Sobol.

“Hmm,” i thought, “OK, they put the classics Kishon and Shabtai together with the ultra-modern Keret.”

This is a very dangerous mistake. There’s no “they” in Wikipedia. There’s only “I”. The right approach to Wikipedia is not to believe a word of it and to check every explicit and implicit fact.

And in this case it is particularly ridiculous: Something mysterious bugged me about this sentence, so i checked the article’s history and saw that this paragraph was added by me in 2007. It was left untouched since then.

I don’t think that i would write the same names today, but Wikipedia’s consensus decided that it is OK.

The previous sentence has a very big problem in it. If you don’t see it, you really shouldn’t read Wikipedia.

The meaningless and the weak

“If it is just to prohibit a Jew from living in Samaria, is it also just to prohibit a black from living in Washington DC?” – Moshe Feiglin

I strongly, very strongly disagree with Moshe Feiglin on many points of his political platform. He’s a manipulator: he presents himself as “loyal to the principles of Likud”, but his own platform actually contradicts that of Likud. It doesn’t mean that i, heaven forfend, support Likud; it just means that Feiglin is a bit of a trickster. Not a liar, just a trickster: Many of his platform’s points are very religious and fundamentalist, but he only publishes them on his own website and not in the articles that he writes for Maariv.

But i strongly, very strongly agree with the point above.

“Stopping natural growth” of the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria is, beyond being nonsensical, violent and racist.

But you know what? Barack Obama is himself a trickster. Worse, yet – he’s a puppet and the people behind him are tricksters. Obama is too good at pleasing crowds. He pleased the crowd in Prague saying that he wants to end nuclear weapons. I support that, but i don’t really believe that he means that. Obama tells a crowd of Jews that Jerusalem will stay undivided, but then a campaign adviser had to clarify, that is muddle it.

A campaign adviser.

At least Moshe Feiglin doesn’t seem to have campaign advisers.

Kas buvo tai nebus

In the last couple of years i fell in love with Israeli literature, especially poetry – from Y. L. Gordon, H. N. Bialik and S. Chernihovski, through N. Alterman and J. Amihay all the way to the present days’ M. Arad and D. Manor. Because of this – among some other things – i decided to study for a minor degree in Hebrew and not in Chinese.

In school i learned about Israel’s poetry like this: There was a literature teacher. We started to study Bialik. She said: “There are common meters – amphibrach, anapaest, iambus, dactyl, and so on, and according to the program you are supposed to study them now, but it is hard for you, and i am not in the mood, so we won’t do it.” She hardly even mentioned Chernihovsky, Shlonsky, Alterman and Avidan – they are, according to her, also “hard, and you can do fine without them”. And so i received the reasonable 75 grade in the matriculation exam in literature in an Israeli high school, but in fact hardly studied any Hebrew literature at all, and for nearly ten years after the school didn’t read a single Israeli book, and not much foreign ones, either.

So now i am replenishing this. At the university i was quickly taught the basics of poetic meters and devices, and suddenly realized what a terrible crime that teacher committed. Without understanding these mostly simple rules it is very hard to read poetry. And he who learns them a little, becomes more educated and opens for himself a new exciting world.


The complete collected works of David Avidan are being released these days. I saw the book in the shop and thought – to buy or not buy? Previously, Avidan seemed very hard for me. I looked through a few pages and understood – now i’ll be able to enjoy it. I looked at the table of contents and all of a sudden saw a title of a poem in Latin letters, and not in English – “Kas buvo tai nebus”. It seemed familiar, i thought that it was Latin, but no, obviously not Latin. And after a moment i realized that it was in Lithuanian: “What was, shall not be”. Here is an attempt in translation:

Two Lithuanians, remembering their mother tongue
Less than they remember
Their mother, meet in a cool evening
In an open coffee house and begin
Remembering. How does one say
The past in Lithuanian? Really, how does one say
The past in Lithuanian? Very awkward, indeed
Very uncomfortable. Maybe there is
Someone here in this nice environment, within a radius of a
Kilometer or two who will be able to fix
This depressing linguistic short circuit? But
The time is very late, and all
The Lithuanians, who arentdeadyet are already asleep.

How does one say sleep in Lithuanian?

1964

(The poem may have been already translated into English, maybe even by Avidan himself. As for “arentdeadyet” – Avidan often stuck words together as a literary device.)

I don’t know what prompted Avidan to write such an unusual poem. Lithuanians, as far as i know, preserved their language much better than did most peoples of the USSR. But perhaps he spoke of the Lithuanians in America or in Israel.

But i bought the book, of course.